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Gazette editorial: Pollution winning at WV Legislature?

F. BRIAN FERGUSON | Gazette-Mail
Chad Cordell, Kanawha Forest Coalition organizer, shares photos of contaminated water with House delegates on Monday.

Pollution has a champion in many members of the West Virginia Legislature, who are eager to allow higher concentrations of pollutants, including cancer-causing chemicals, in more streams.

The House of Delegates advanced a bill (HB 2506) this week, possibly for passage today, to change the way the state measures pollution — allowing measures to be made at higher stream flows. Currently, measures are required at lower flows, when concentrations of pollution would be higher.

The old team is behind it — the Manufacturers Association, coal, gas and Chamber of Commerce lobbyists, who breathe the word “jobs” and most lawmakers mindlessly follow.

What jobs?

Dave Yaussy, a lobbyist for the Manufacturers Association, testified before a House committee last week that he could not identify how many jobs would come to West Virginia if only the state had higher stream pollution tolerances. Steve White, director of the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation, knows of no recent projects hung up on the current rule.

Pollution limits and enforcement have allowed West Virginia’s beautiful terrain to greatly heal itself after the careless abuse by people of the previous century. Every time a trout stream comes back or a potable water source is restored, West Virginia’s future, including its economic future, becomes more healthful and sustainable.

At a time when other states peer covetously at West Virginia’s abundant water, when tourism, craft beer and who knows what new industries are poised to further diversify the state’s economy, who benefits from allowing more pollution?

Not residents who spoke against this rule change. Not trout fishers who oppose it. Not representatives of new industries who depend on clean, trustworthy sources of water.

Bill supporters have even tried to characterize those residents as having a “knee-jerk reaction.” Nonsense. If anything, it is the old industry lineup having a knee-jerk reaction, or perhaps just acting out of habit, mumbling their piece by rote, failing to account for the state’s economic changes.

We suspect lawmakers will find that their constituents are not as enamored with damaged and dangerous streams as some highly paid lobbyists would have them believe.

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